Facilitators, barriers and support needs for staying at work with a chronic condition: a focus group study

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Background: Working with a chronic condition can be challenging. Providing support to workers with a chronic condition can help them to stay at work and prevent work-related problems. Workers with a chronic condition who successfully stay at work can provide valuable input for the development of effective supportive interventions to prevent exit from work and facilitate sustainable employment. The aim of this study is to explore the lived experiences of workers with a chronic condition and identify existing barriers, facilitators and possible support needs for staying at work. Methods: Four focus groups were conducted between August and December 2017 with workers with one or more chronic conditions (n = 30). Participants included employees and (partially) self-employed workers. All focus group data were transcribed verbatim and thematically analyzed. Results: Disclosure and expressing one's needs were considered important personal facilitators for staying at work. Environmental facilitators included receiving practical information on working with a chronic condition and social and employer support. Environmental barriers were identified in the work environment, the health care system and service provision, e.g., manager and co-worker's lack of knowledge about working with a chronic condition, a lack of focus on work in the course of treatment for a chronic condition, dissatisfaction with occupational physician support, and the absence of support for self-employed workers. Provided support should be available to all workers, and be proactive and tailored to the workers' specific support needs. Conclusions: A variety of facilitators, barriers and support needs were identified in various domains. By addressing environmental barriers (e.g., by integrating work in the course of treatment and creating supportive work environments), sustainable employment by workers with a chronic condition can be promoted.

Original languageEnglish
Article number201
JournalBMC public health
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 7 Feb 2020


  • Barriers and facilitators
  • Chronic conditions
  • Support
  • Sustainable employment
  • Work

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